HSE advice to the public during adverse weather

Despite a thaw in some parts of the country today, risks to the public from slips and falls on icy footpaths are likely to continue in the days ahead, the HSE said today. The elderly and vulnerable remain at risk of isolation in many parts of the country and the HSE today reminded people to drop in on elderly neighbours to ensure that they had adequate food, heating and prescription medicines. The public should remember that elderly people are particularly prone to hypothermia and pneumonia and while temperatures are due to rise slightly in the days ahead, health and safety risks, particularly to the elderly and vulnerable, are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

HSE services including emergency departments, ambulance service, primary care centres and GP services, continue to deal with an upsurge in the number of people presenting with sprains, fractures and cuts as a result of slips and falls on icy roads and footpaths. Despite the challenges faced by community based health services in some of the worst affected areas, services are being provided by the HSE with the support of staff and other agencies.

Hospitals across the country are reporting a significant upsurge in the numbers of cases of fractures during this spell of severe weather. Emergency medicine consultants are reporting that a high percentage of these fractures are complex, requiring surgery. The minimum increases in the number of people presenting with fractures in the last week are in the order of 30 per cent with a large number of hospitals experiencing a year-on-year increase for the period of 70 per cent or more. Initial reports from hospitals around the country suggest that whilst there is an increase in the number of patients presenting with fractures and requiring orthopaedic surgery, most hospitals are managing to see patients without having to cancel elective surgeries. Where elective surgeries have been impacted, patients are being notified in advance by the hospital. Hospitals are treating patients within their scheduled fracture or OPD clinics by adding additional appointment slots.

The HSE is coordinating efforts with the Defence Forces and the Voluntary Emergency Services (Irish Red Cross, Order of Malta, St John’s Ambulance Brigade and Civil Defence ) in order to ensure that the appropriate vehicular and manpower resources (fully crewed 4 x 4 vehicles, ambulances, etc ) are available to the HSE where necessary in an effort to facilitate people and communities cope with the hazardous conditions. This is helping to ensure that patients who need travel for essential treatment, such as dialysis, chemotherapy can get to their appointments and that urgent medicines can be delivered to patients living in inaccessible areas. In addition, efforts are being made by the HSE, with the co-operation of the voluntary services, to ensure that HSE staff working in the community can continue to provide clients with services such as home help, meals on wheels, community nursing services etc.

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